Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a hub for tourists and home to more than two million people. Being a thriving seaport and modern city with an interesting architectural blend of modern high rise buildings, old colonials and bustling market places, it is one of Africa's most exciting cities. Dakar has something for everyone from its vibrant nightlife and interesting historical attractions to its picturesque beaches.
Our Dakar Destination Guide below and our Dakar Tour suggestions will tell you all you need to know about things to see and do in Dakar. For tips on how to get around in Dakar & Saint Louis, read our Dakar Transportation Guide. For general country information, see our Senegal Country Guide.
A visit to the Ile de Goree is a must. This small island just off the Dakar coast is the epicentre of the African slave trade and a tour around its interior is an experience almost beyond words. Built by the Dutch in 1776 the House of Slaves held captive millions of men, women and children over a three and a half century period before they were sold into a life of servitude, shipped to the Americas, passing through the ‘Door of no return'.
In 1978 the island was listed on the world heritage list by UNESCO. Despite its dark history, today the island is a peaceful place and is one of Dakar's most visited tourist sites.
The island of Fadiouth is an old fishing village located near Jaol, on the southern end of the Petite Cote. Fadiouth has become a popular tourist site for its unique archetecture. Over many years, the remains of clamshells have built up over the streets and houses creating this unique white village. Motor vehicles are not allowed on the island, it is accessible only by an 800m long wooden foot bridge or by the local boats, pirogues. The village cemetary is on another island, that is reached by crossing another wooden footbridge. Each grave is marked by a white cross and a pile of shells.
Listed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2000, Saint Louis is distinctly French colonial, still preserving much of its 19th Century structure. Thanks to its unique appearance, International music festivals such as The Saint Louis Jazz Festival and its many cultural exhibitions, Saint Louis is rapidly growing in popularity as a 'must visit' tourist destination.
The fine sandy white beaches of the Petite Cote are some of the most picturesque in West Africa. Spend your days lounging around soaking up the radiant African sun, or enjoy one of the many available watersports: swimming, waterskiing, jetskiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, canoeing, and windsurfing. The deep sea fishing here is some of the best in Senegal.
65km from Dakar you will find the privately funded game park - La Reserve de Bandia. 1000 hectares of protected land which offers visitors the opportunity to view some of Africa's wild animals up close. The park is home to giraffe, buffalo, rhinos, crocodiles, antelopes, monkeys and many more.
There are also some interesting cultural landmarks to be discovered. An ancient Baobab tree within the reserve marks the resting place for the remains of celebrated local griots and there are also some Serere burial mounds.
Dakar is the capital of Senegal and is located on the tip of the Cap Verde Peninsula, on Africa's Atlantic Coast. It is the westernmost African city, and one of Africa's most important sea ports. Dakar covers an area of approximately 158sq km.
Dakar Demographical Information
Approximately one million people call Dakar city proper home. When taking into account the metropolitan areas, the figures rise to approximately 2.45 million.
Senegal's official currency is the West African CFA (XOF) devided into 100 centimes. ATMs and banking facilites are available in Dakar, but they are limited in the rest of the country.
Credit cards: American Express is the most widely accepted, though its use is still limited to major establishments that cater to tourism. Visa, Mastercard and Diners are accepted with limited use.
Travellers Cheques: Travellers cheques can be cashed in Dakar.
Dakar was once considered a major city under the French Empire, and in keeping with its French Colonial heritage, French is Senegal's official language. Wolof is the most widely spoken national language spoken by more than 80% of the population. There are five other national languages including: Serere, Diola, Haal Puular, Soninke and Mandingue. Many more tribal dialects are spoken across Senegal.
The city of Dakar is set in a tropical climate situation with two distinct seasons. The rainy season generally spans from May to November. Heavy downpours and wind peak in August with temperatures averaging at 27°C. The dry season runs from December through to April, with little to no rain fall and hot, humid Harmattan winds.
Religion and Customs
Over 90% of Senegal's population is Muslim. The remainder of the population have Christian or traditional indigenous beliefs. As this is a conservative society, dress should be conservative, especially outside of tourist areas, and public displays of affection should be avoided. Drunkeness is considered offensive and acts of homosexuality are illegal. Religious customs such as Ramadan should be respected. During Ramadan, eating,drinking and smoking are prohibited from sunrise to sunset.
Dakar Entry Requirements
Citizens of the US, UK, Canada, South Africa and Ireland are required to hold a passport valid for 3 months, a visa is not required for a stay of up to three months.
Citizens of Australia and New Zealand are required to hold a passport valid for 3 months, a visa is required for all stays.
All visitors must have a return airline ticket or onward ticket before entering Senegal.
Dakar Electricity Voltage
220 volts, frequency 50 Hertz. Round two-pin plugs(C) are most widely used.
Dakar Local Time
Dakar time zone is the same as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Daylight savings time does not apply.
Communication in Dakar
The international dialling code for Senegal is +221. The outgoing code for phoning abroad is 00 followed by the relevant country code. Reasonable Internet connections are available in major cities.
Health Services in Dakar
Medical facilities are of a decent standard in Dakar. Services in the rest of the country are limited. Ensure you have organised your health insurance before your arrival.
Recommended vaccinations include: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, typhoid, polio and tetanus. Cholera and Meningococal outbreaks are prevalent.
Protection against Mosquito bites is essential as Dengue Fever and Malaria are not uncommon.
The most common complaints amongst visitors relate to gastric and intestinal problems. Do not drink untreated tap water, and be aware of food sold by street vendors.
Do not swim in stagnant, fresh water as the risk of Bilharzia is present.
Business Hours in Dakar
General business hours are from 8am - 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour for lunch.
Banking hours are from 8-11.15am and 2.30-4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
Shopping hours are from 8am - midday and 2.30-6pm Monday to Friday. This can vary as some vendors are open on Sundays and will close on Mondays. But these hours apply for official shops, though the major part of shopping can be porocessed all day longwith "unofficial" shops (markets, street walking sellers, ...
Travellers over the age of 18 are able to purchase 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco or tobacco products, perfume or gifts to the value of CFA 5000 without paying duty tax. Spirits and alcohol are not duty free.
Play a round at Golf de Saly, a fantastic 18 hole golf course. Enjoy the tropical climate and ocean views as you chase that hole in one! There are water hazards on seven of the holes, and more than 60,000 plants have been planted making this one of the most beautiful courses in Africa.
One of the most frequented spots along the Cap Vert Peninsula is Le Lac Rose. One of nature's rarest phenomenon; the lakes unique pink colouring is caused by high mineral concentration and millions of micro organisms inhabiting the water. The lake is surrounded by sand dunes, baobab forests and villages. The lake is a vital source of income for the villagers, who can be seen daily using traditional methods to extract salt from the bottom of the lake to sell to the cities.
Saloum Delta National park has been listed on the UNESCO Man and biosphere programme, whose goal it is to conserve natural and cultural heritage, since 1981. The park extends over 76,000 hectares of land and is home to many native animals including hyenas, monkeys and warthogs. The area is rich in birdlife, and is considered one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the world.
- Dak'Art Biennale - One of Africa's most renound art festivals.
- Saint Louis Jazz Festival.
- Kay Fecc dance festival.
- Carnival Ziguinchor.
- Festival Mondial des Arts Négres.
Football is a popular game all over Africa, and its popularity has improved in Senegal since their explosive entrance onto the world stage at the 2002 world cup. Impromptu games are played mostly on the weekends, and as the days cool off towards the evening. There are football fields in almost every town, and inter-town matches draw large crowds.